Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Entry 58—Tax Day

I take a pleasure that most people would find perverse in doing my taxes. Every year I wait until April 14 to do them—except when I wait until April 15. Then I do them entirely by hand by myself. No accountant, no tax software, and not even a calculator.

Instead I sit down with a legal pad, the tax forms and instructions and do everything by hand. One set of calculations per page. Everything is neatly in order.

It’s hard even for me to say why I enjoy this—and maybe impossible for other people to understand. But by the time I’m done, I know just what my family made this past year. I know what expenses were deductible; how much we spent on interest for our mortgage; how much we gave to charity and a whole host of facts that I ignore for most of the year.

My wife gathers all the records, and then leaves me alone to do the calculations. Usually I do them right. Once in awhile I do them wrong and the IRS and I have a little discussion. But at the end of the process, I always feel I understand just what we are paying in the way of taxes and I like knowing that.

I suppose the other reason I enjoy it is that, even alone with my numbers, I feel engaged with every other American in a great civic enterprise. Amazingly enough, almost all of us voluntarily file and pay our taxes every year. It’s an unbelievable showing of civic virtue and, as long as we keep doing it, I’m pretty sure we will do fine as a country. I’m proud of all of us.

BTW: If any of you haven’t noticed and haven’t filed yet, your tax return is due today. I hope you enjoy filing yours as much as I did mine.

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